12 January 2012
we refuse to be victims
(c) photo by khulud kh, 2012
She was maybe 27 or 28 when it happened. Right in the middle of having sex. She was high on marihuana and wine and it was all blurred in her mind. She only remembers the last moments of it. N was on top of her, and she was crying, “rape me, rape me.” He stopped in the midst of action and stared at her in horror. “Asmahan! Asmahan! Wake up! It’s me.” She stared at him with eyes full of fear. She covered herself with the blanket, and wept silently, her body contracted into a ball.
That was when she connected the dots. Her inability to enjoy physical contact without being high or drunk. And even then!
She can’t remember exactly when it all started. She can only guess that it lasted maybe two maybe three years. Maybe more maybe less. Maybe from the age of 9 or 10 somewhere around there. Because when her grandfather died, she was 11 and it was going on for a while already. She doesn’t remember how it started, or even why.
He was older by two years. Two years is a lot at the age of 9 or 10 or even 11. To her, he seemed almost grown up. What she remembers is an amalgamation of hands forcing their way into places she knew were forbidden to him. Her hands resisting, failing. The weight of his body on top of hers. His breath – always garlic – when he forced his tongue inside her mouth. The bruises that stayed for days on those parts of body that resisted the most. The pain. The disgust.
She also remembers the day when she gathered some extraordinary courage – from where she doesn’t know – and stood up to him. “Enough! I am going outside to wait for my father, and if you touch me again, I will tell him.” He just laughed at her. But he never again touched her.
For years, she walked with this pain inside of her. She was sure that it was her own fault. That somehow it was her who was guilty of his acts. Then, slowly, the pain receded, was pushed into some forgotten corner. Psychologists call it repression.
Then, on that night, it all flushed her. All the memories of his hands tongue touch weight garlic breath. She didn’t tell N about it, but he somehow felt. He knew he couldn’t hold her to comfort her. So he gave her enough space – physical – to feel the pain all the way, with all its intensity.
Our mothers didn’t teach us. Anything that had to do with any touch between a girl and a boy or man and woman was taboo. We were never told that our bodies belong to us. That we have full rights over our bodies. That no man, woman, girl, boy can touch any part of our body without our full consent.
Yet, our mothers are not to blame. No. We can never judge our mothers for what they could or could not do. We live in a society with such twisted grasp over anything that has to do with bodies. They think that if we don’t talk about it, if they act as if it doesn’t exist, then it will never happen. Not in their family.
But the fact is – and I don’t need to quote from any research – that the more a community represses these things and sweeps them under the carpet, the more sexual assaults happen in those very communities. Within the family – usually by cousins and uncles. Less often by brothers.
Looking back at the terrifying ease with which he molested her, she knows – without the need to quote from any research – that it happens at least to 80% of the girls. In one way or another.
Today she also knows what she didn’t know then. Back then, she walked with the pain all alone. She was sure that this was something very private, happening only to her, because of her. Today, she knows her pain is just a drop in a big, collective vessel, containing the collective pain of more than 80% of the girls around the world.
What to do with this pain? She’s working on it. Not with any psychologist, no. Her partner doesn’t know. But he knows she has an issue with sex. She still can’t be with him in bed without being drunk. But she’s working on it.
But more important, we need to channel this pain into something positive. Talk to our girls about sexual assault. Teach them that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. That nobody – not a man, not a woman, not a boy, not a girl – has the right to touch any part of their body without full consent. That they have full rights over their own bodies. Because we don’t need any more collective pain. Enough is enough. We refuse to be victims.
(c) khulud kh, 2012